Through tragedy comes triumph for WL’s Karlaftis

George Karlaftis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — George Karlaftis is not your average high school sophomore.

George was born in Greece. The 15-year-old grew up playing several sports; but if you ask his mother Amy Karlaftis, George’s strength was in the pool.

“Water polo was something that his dad wanted him to do,” Amy Karlaftis said. “It wasn’t a sport that I ever played so I didn’t really know exactly how good he was. All I know is every time they had a tournament, every time they had any kind of competition in Athens, they always wanted George.”

George represented Greece on the National Water Polo Team. It appeared George would take his athletic career to great depths, but then the unexpected happened in June of 2014.

“Oh that was bad,” George Karlaftis said. “That was bad.”

“I guess being the sports person that I am, I would say it was a curveball that I didn’t see coming,” Amy Karlaftis said.

George’s father, Matthew, died of a massive heart attack. He was 44 years old.

“After he passed away, believe it or not I haven’t cried,” George Karlaftis said.

Amy vividly recalls the day.

“He didn’t cry,” Amy Karlaftis said. “He was the only one home with me. I just remember him like falling to his knees saying, ‘No, tell me mom it’s not true.’ He did not cry, but you could tell two days later George wasn’t little boy George anymore. George was a man.”

Two months after Matthew passed away, Amy packed up and moved the family to her hometown — West Lafayette.

The man who shined in the water soon found a new sport — football. But the current West Lafayette sophomore was initially reluctant to play.

“Eighth grade year I did not want to play,” George Karlaftis said. “I did not want anything to do with football, and that was because my dad got injured in college. My mom was like, ‘Yeah, he got injured so I don’t know if you want to play.’ I thought about it and then I came out freshman year.”

Football runs in the family genes. George’s father was a tight end for the University of Miami in Florida and his grandfather played for Notre Dame.

It didn’t take long for George to gain interest from Division I colleges, despite playing the game for just two seasons.

“He’s scary,” West Lafayette head coach Shane Fry said. “I’ll tell you what, he can get on you in a hurry. You might think he’s out of the play and all of a sudden, he’s not only in on the play. He’s making the play.”

While George has already received an offer from Indiana and taken an unofficial visit to Notre Dame, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end is far from reaching his full potential.

“I think I can get 10 times better,” George Karlaftis said.

His head coach agrees.

“Well he’s only 15 and he’s played football for a year and a half,” Fry said. “His ceiling is incredible.”

From the pool in Greece to the gridiron in Indiana, one of George’s strongest supporters is watching from above. Fittingly, George wants to follow his father’s footsteps.

“I’ve always liked Miami, really, because that’s where my dad went,” George Karlaftis said. “Miami’s just been up there since I was a kid.”

Amy knows Matthew would be overjoyed with what their son has accomplished.

“I think he’s the one that’s being shocked right now,” Amy Karlaftis said. “We’re turning it around on him. I think he would be shocked that his son is so phenomenal and has stepped up and is doing something so great and he’s a well-rounded individual. I think he would be very proud of him.”